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Nationalism is often stigmatized and misunderstood, especially when it comes to minority nationalism. Some people misguidedly associate all expressions of nationalism to national-socialism, tribalism, and racism.

On the contrary, the origins of modern nationalism in the 18th century point us to the humanist ideals of equality of men, freedom for all peoples, and peaceful relations among free States. Quebec nationalism emerged within the context of the American, French and Latin American revolutions, periods of history during which most European colonies in America gained their independence. Unlike the Thirteen British Colonies which fought to maintain the liberties they already enjoyed vis-a-vis England, Quebec, in 1775, was a conquered country. The people of Quebec had no liberties to preserve: they were all to be gained or regained. From this important period of time in human history, we have inherited a patriotism enlightened by the highest moral values and ethical principles.

In the context of a colonization by a foreign power, the nationalism of a conquered/colonized people can be and has often been supported by a progressive and popular liberation movement, inspired by the greatest and most universal ideals. Think of Daniel O'Connell in Ireland, Mahatma Gandhi in India or Louis-Joseph Papineau here in Québec. In the context of a territorial expansion or consolidation, the nationalism of a strong people can become and has too often been akin to imperialism, inspired by sentiments that shame all of humanity. Think of British and French imperialism and colonialism.

Quebec independentists see a very clear distinction between nationalism, today a universal phenomenon, and the exploitation of a people's patriotic sentiment by political rulers who wish to keep themselves in power or gain more of it. Between the self-hatred of the colonized and the chauvinism and hatred of others of the colonizer, there is a balance: self-respect. Self-respect leads to self-confidence and openness to others. When a conquered nation seeks its independence, it is trying to attain this balance.

Nationalism, when combined with despotic or oligarchic rule can be and has too often been disastrous for human beings, there is no denying this. That is why Québec nationalists, from the most conservative to the most progressive, have overwhelmingly rejected, and continue to reject, the use of violence as a means of attaining our national independence. Our most determined political adversaries cannot claim the same.


Québec nationalism

Canadian nationalism

The avent of Canadian nationalism was delayed by various factors, one of them being the implantation of the stronger ideology of British Imperialism among the ruling class. Although the Westminster Statute gave the Dominion of Canada its independence in 1931, it is only after World War II that British Canadians began to identify as Canadians first and foremost.

(1) Major propaganda piece, but still a good read. It would not be so bad if the author was not so ignorant of Quebec nationalism and indifferent to the human rights of Native Americans. No good answer could ever come out of a discussion where the majority of the interested parties were not invited.

See also

  • Read books on nationalism